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Obesity may reduce chances of pregnancy

For overweight women looking forward to becoming mothers, here’s some bad news. A new study has shown that obese women are as much as 28 per cent less likely to become pregnant.

health and fitness Updated: Nov 06, 2009 16:51 IST

Fat womanFor overweight women looking forward to becoming mothers, here’s some bad news. A new study has shown that obese women are as much as 28 per cent less likely to become pregnant or have a successful pregnancy.

The study, conducted by Barbara Luke, a researcher in the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine's Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, focused on data of nearly 50,000 women using assisted reproductive technology. The results showed that women who are simply overweight have a 14 per cent less chance of a successful pregnancy.

"The results are not surprising; obesity is a state of inflammation and is not a good environment for conception or foetal development. The key message is to lose weight, prior to conception and focus on pre-conception health issues. Once you become pregnant, the baby is developing in that environment," Luke said.

As part of the research, Luke's team looked at the effect increasing body mass index had on a woman's ability to become pregnant using assisted reproductive technology and how obesity affects pregnancy outcomes. They compared outcomes to women with normal body mass index (BMI of 18.5-24.9). Women were classified as overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9), Class 1 obesity (30-34.9), Class 2 (35-39.9) and Class 3 (40 or greater).

They found that women at Class 3 obesity were 35 per cent less likely to become pregnant; Class 2 resulted in a 28 per cent less chance; 9 per cent for Class 1; and 3 per cent for overweight women. Of the obese women who were able to become pregnant, the odds of stillbirth were increased more than twofold.

Among live births, the odds of premature birth significantly paralleled increasing obesity - from 16 per cent for overweight women to 34 per cent for women at Class 3.

"If you are thinking about starting a family, get into the best physical shape possible. Control the factors you can - such as drinking alcohol and smoking and remember, body weight is just as important," Luke said.

Last month Luke was awarded the 2009 Scientific Program Prize Paper for her presentation on maternal obesity research at the 2009 American Society of Reproductive Medicine international meeting in Atlanta.